We started our adventure in Zion National Park. Due to the extreme volume of tourists, a shuttle system has been put in place to move people through Zion canyon, the most southern portion of the park. If you visit during the summer, be prepared for long lines and extended waits for the shuttle.
The hikes we did in this portion of the park were packed with people. On The Narrows hike, we literally hiked in the Virgin River (anywhere from ankle- to knee-deep, mostly) along with at least a thousand others. The scenery is so stunning, photography cannot capture the immensity of the beauty here. We saw two peregrine falcons up close on this hike, a spectacle my husband will certainly never forget.
After three days at Zion, it was time to move on. We hiked through the Kolob Canyon region on the Taylor Creek trail to the double arch (pictured below) on our way north. The elevation here was high enough to bring the temperature down to a much more comfortable level. The air was clean, the sky blue, and the trail much less crowded. I was in heaven!
Continuing through the mountains, we stopped at Cedar Breaks National Monument, hoping to get another hike in. The elevation here is around 10,000 ft. Unfortunately, the sky grew dark, the temperature dropped to 54F, and the rain began to fall! As it turns out, this area has been receiving way more rain than normal this year. As soon as we descended the other side of the mountain, the clouds evaporated and the sun returned.
Our next hike took us into the back country, far from the national parks, out into the wilderness. After wandering in the desert for what felt like 40 years, we finally found our destination: Red Cave. This little-known slot canyon was filled with water from all the recent rains, so we couldn't explore very far once inside. But having this treasure all to ourselves--we didn't run into a single person hiking this day--was an exceptional treat after the crowds at Zion.
A road trip up to Red Canyon brought us into hoodoo country--and a landscape very similar to that of Bryce National Park. We scaled the rocky terrain, admiring the vibrant crimson color of the alien-shaped rock formations. By noon, we had been joined by 600 French tourists heading toward Bryce. Who knew that the entire country of France would be visiting Utah in August? I had a chance to practice my French with a couple of young teens who didn't even try to correct my pronunciation.
From here, we headed south to Kanab, the home of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. A two-hour tour of the 3000 acre campus took us through some of the most stunning scenery of this area. Many Hollywood films and iconic television shows, including Gunsmoke, have been filmed on this piece of land. Here, abandoned animals--from dogs and cats to horses, goats, pigs, and parrots--all live in state-of-the-art enclosures designed with the animals in mind. A staff of 400 full-time employees, including vets, cares for the thousands of animals using every type of therapy, socialization, medical intervention, and rehabilitation necessary. Many of these animals are adopted out to the public, but all are loved and cared for, even those not deemed adoptable. Best Friends has a mission to end all kill shelters by 2025. If you would like to support them, please visit www.bestfriends.org.
The town of Kanab has plenty of fabulous restaurants and coffee shops. I would highly recommend the Kanab Creek Bakery for coffee (cold-brewed with cream! YUM!) and sandwiches. We also had a lovely meal at the Wild Thyme Cafe, which is fairly new to the area. Most restaurants here cater to healthy types who might be meat-eating, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or some combination. You will certainly discover something you like!